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How to succeed in tech

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I started my tech career back in 1996. I spent the first ten years working for different local startups and small businesses before I decided to cofound Spring, the leading web and mobile development consultancy.

I started as an MS Access programmer before moving into quality assurance and then on to project and product management. Over those ten years, my first bosses were two brilliant women, followed by a few brilliant men who have all played their part in shaping and advancing my career. I consider myself to be lucky to have had the chance to work with such great minds and personalities as I had back as the late 90s and early 2000s.

Despite having several female leaders and pioneers in the Tech industry in Jordan, women still face many obstacles in landing or growing their tech careers. Sexism is strong in Arab societies. In the heavily male-dominated tech sector, as a woman, you will most probably have second-class employee status, get paid less, lose a promotion to a male colleague, or become stuck in a role your managers feel is most comfortable to them. You will be told what you can and cannot do. It sometimes feels like the world wants to limit your choices: so what should you do to overcome this?

Below are a few tips that I believe should help women in the tech industry:

  • Do not ever hesitate to change the course of your career at any time. You might love working in another position, no matter how different it is from what you’ve done in the past. Even if the people around you oppose that change, you must persevere, learn the basics of the new job, and convince your management of your readiness and competence to address that new challenge.
  • If you love to code, then code. You will hear a lot of ‘advice’ from your friends, family, boss or colleagues that coding isn’t a good career for women: that it requires long hours, staying late at the office or working late from home. Working in technology is always seasonal. Everyone involved has to work long hours just before a big release. From developers, to designers, to quality engineers, to project managers, to team leaders, to documentation team… etc. Everyone. So if you love coding, don’t get intimidated by the long scary hours. Most companies now issue laptops – if yours doesn’t, then ask for one  so you can work from home when needed. This may be more convenient if family pressures require you to come home early evening.
  • Ask, demand and take credit. Our societies raise women to be shy and to refrain from asking for our rights, and in the process we become convinced that this is a great value that women should have! Think differently. When you think you have achieved something that merits a pay raise, then ask for one. If you have an idea to make things work better, then put it forward, and if you achieve a milestone, take the credit for it. I assure you that all your male colleagues do all of that – and more.
  • Make sure you are paid well, similarly to your male colleagues. Many men in our societies, even those that think they value women in their life and work, still believe men have more responsibilities and thus need to be paid more. Never accept that. Just because our societies bombard men with a lot of financial responsibility, it doesn’t mean that any man, whether he’s saving to get married or married with children, deserves more than you do, notwithstanding whether you yourself are single or married. People get paid for the work, creativity and effort that they themselves put into a job, period. Even if salaries are equal between staff, make sure that if there are other indirect benefits your male colleague receives because he is married (such as rent allowance, kid’s school fees…etc.) you receive them too. Ensure that you get a similar treatment if you are married, or that you get an equal extra benefit if you are single, like more vacation days, a gym subscription…etc.
  • Ask questions about gender equality during the interview for a position or when you are given an offer. Do some research on the company’s reputation for equality before deciding to take an offer. Know this: every relationship between human beings is a two-way street. Your boss hired you to do a job and to do it extremely well, and you accepted that job in order to learn, to advance and to get paid. So, in interviews make sure you ask your potential employer blunt questions about how women are treated in the company. Put it out there right from the start. They might try to intimidate you when you raise the topic of gender. Just say you want to make sure that you’ll be working in an environment that will most help you reach your potential. That should do it.
  • Make sure you report any harassment through the proper channels and never get talked out of it, whatever reason your boss or the head of HR might give you. Remember, you report such behaviour so it doesn’t happen to you again, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else again, and because nothing will ever change if you stay silent about it.

 

Happy geeking everyone!

 

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